7 Key Differences Between Mobile and Desktop App Development

Milo Team

Milo Team


It’s no secret that mobile app development has seen a huge rise in recent years. The whole world’s turned mobile and the Google Play Store gets updated with over 3,700 new mobile apps daily.

In this article:

  • Mobile vs web vs desktop apps Go to text
  • The main differences between mobile and desktop app development Go to text
  • Do you need a best-of-breed app? Go to text

But how does the mobile app development process differ from traditional app development?

For businesses looking to create their first mobile app, what different factors do you need to be aware of?

How can you set the right expectations for projects and source the best software development partners?

The main differences between traditional desktop app development and developing for mobile are explained below…

Mobile vs web vs desktop apps

Traditional desktop applications run on desktop computers and don’t need web access to function. Typical examples that most people know are Microsoft Paint and Notepad but desktop apps can also be designed for specific purposes within any corporate environment.

Then there are web apps, which require an Internet connection and a web browser to access and use. They’re designed and developed to adapt to whichever device they’re viewed on. Web apps are not native to a particular system and don’t need to be downloaded or installed.

Mobile apps are usually built for a specific platform (e.g., iOS or Android) and are designed to be accessed and used on mobile devices — from Android-based smartphones and iPhones to tablets like iPads.

To improve usability, these apps need access to the device and system resources, such as location data, camera, direct calling and messaging, voice controls, etc. Mobile users download the app from the relevant app store to get started

The main differences between mobile and desktop app development

It may seem that the whole world has embraced mobile apps but many businesses are still rooted in traditional desktop application development.

If you’re considering their first venture into mobile apps, you’ll need to consider the differences in the software development process. Some of these are more obvious than others but the screen size is not the only difference…

1. User interactions are very different

Mobile users interact with their devices in many different ways than traditional apps. It doesn’t take a genius to see that — we just need to look around.

Mobile users work with smaller devices, which creates design challenges compared with traditional app development. Interactions tend to be quick taps or swipes rather than clicks. Fingers are less precise than mouse clicks, so how can you make it easy for users to select actions without a cursor?

Features like large buttons located in the “reach zone”, easy-fill forms and simple navigation controls (like steppers rather than dropdown menus) help.

2. Vertical orientation vs landscape orientation

This is another obvious one: most smartphones require mobile apps to be vertically oriented (“portrait”) rather than the traditional landscape orientation seen on desktop apps.

This creates challenges for mobile app development as it greatly affects design and navigation choices.

3. Speed is even more essential

Speed is essential for all applications: desktop, web and mobile, But the game has changed in recent years. Without a doubt, the biggest killer of a user’s experience with an app is perceived slow response times.

Your app needs to be snappy as users won’t wait around if you don’t deliver.

Mobile users have generally short attention spans and may be doing a couple of things at once, so speed and simplicity are must-haves with mobile application development.

Even if some speed issues exist, adding touch states to buttons or using loading animations can make the app feel faster and more responsive — which is what really counts.

4. A smooth US is a must

People use their phones everywhere (and I mean everywhere) so mobile app development needs to focus on providing the smoothest user experience (UX) possible for all these situations: whether it’s in the bath, on the bus or abseiling down a cliff.

The smaller screen means you’ll need to be far more economical with text, graphics and other content than on desktop. Prioritize the most important information and hide the rest on less prominent pages.

It’s essential to cast aside every non-critical feature if you’re moving from desktop software to mobile.

5. You must follow each platform's design best practices

Will your app be designed for iOS, Android or both?

Even if you’re aiming for a unique end product, with a different look and feel from every other app out there, platform best practices are there to be followed during the design and development phases of the project.

A professional software development team will already be well aware of the platform conventions and best practices and will not deviate too far from the recommended user interface controls and interactions or the UX guidelines.

6. Flexibility and agility are key to mobile projects

The mobile app world is so dynamic and evolving so rapidly that mobile development projects must be agile and prepared to “pivot” as necessary.

If you have a 12-month-long development life cycle, the tech may have already moved on by the time your app is launched. So, you must build flexibility into your project from the beginning and find a team that can speed up the product release cycle to get your app to market in the shortest timeframe possible.

Once the app is tested and released, a process of continuous upgrades and improvements can easily iron out any shortcomings.

7. Security must be balanced with accessibility

With any app environment, security is a major consideration. With a mobile app development project, user accessibility must be balanced with the security requirements.

A seasoned software development team will be able to advise you on best practices with this so that your app meets the security expectations without compromising the personalised user experience you’re after.

Do you need a best-of-breed app?

Mobile and desktop apps are designed and built very differently.

If your business is transitioning from desktop to mobile software development, there’s a lot to consider. And there’s a very short runway to win over users as the app world is getting more competitive by the day,

You need to work alongside a professional team with a consultative approach to ensure that your software development project will achieve all of your business goals.

Start by contacting the experienced, reliable and approachable team at Milo Solutions.

We’ll help you make the right app choices for your business and manage the entire project development life cycle from ideation to deployment.







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